For whatever reason, this piece from 4 years ago where I’m gushing about my deep rooted love for braids remains the most read post. My love for braids still runs deep but much has changed since then so here’s
a hair post update my natural hair journey.
I’ll be your sugar mama
Three years ago, in the summer of 2016, I entered the dark vortex of Youtube’s suggested videos and found myself binge watching natural hair videos. It hit me like a wrecking ball that I didn’t know what my non-chemical processed hair texture looked or felt like. Similar to Samson, I had never cut my hair. For as long as I can remember, my locks were [mostly] silky as fuck. I don’t fault my mum and I doubt she relaxed my hair because it was unruly or as a means to make me more socially acceptable. From my understanding/interpretation, it was easier to manage. Due to lack of information and products catering to non-chemically altered hair, I can understand why. If you grew up in Nigerian or another African country, do you share similar sentiments?
I think a woman’s relationship with her natural hair is slightly different in Nigeria than in the United States. From one perspective, a woman’s hair convey’s her socio-economic status and not necessarily her awareness of and rebellion against Eurocentric standards of beauty. It’s a recycled plot in many Nollywood movies; the poor village girl always styles her hair in “all back” or some variation of cornrows. However, once she experiences financial success, her hair is almost always the first attribute to transform alongside her wallet. She now sports Brazillian weaves in all lengths, cuts and colors. The reverse is true as well for a character who experiences economic downturn. Her wig is literally snatched off to reveal her cornrows. Simplistically, it makes sense. These Brazilian bundles are an expensive habit. You might ask, why is socio-economic mobility linked with wavier and looser coil patterns? Firstly, curly hair and straight hair aren’t mutually exclusive to black and white people so let’s calm down. Secondly, I agree my statement can be refuted but that’s not the point of this article. I’m simply trying to point out that weaves and wigs are in one part socio-economic aspirations and mobility symbols in Nigeria. Similar to how a man who was once an okada (motor cycle) rider flaunts his prisitine Land Cruiser or Hummer jeep (major New Money Nigerian status symbols) as a cash money, “I’ll be your Sugar Daddy, taking applications” announcement. The former isn’t necessarily bad but the latter is an “upgrade”. While I don’t want to generalize my personal experience, I believe it’s safe to say relaxed and non-relaxed hair were equally portrayed positively (& negatively) in local Nigerian media.
Back to why I cut my hair. Upon watching several Youtube videos and educating myself on the politics of hair in America, I realized that while I didn’t have any negative emotions about hair (or so I thought), I was certainly ignorant of my true emotions since I had a relaxer all my life. Thus, on May 15th 2015 after retiring from the library one late night, I walked into my room, tied my luscious locks in a high bun and gave it a big snip. I wasn’t drunk, experiencing school or life stress. Although cutting it during finals week arose suspicion which is understandable since I didn’t consult anyone on this impulsive decision. Remember how Samson from the Bible went from being the Incredible Hulk to Stuart Little in one snip? Well, I cut the damn hair and felt absolutely nothing. I didn’t feel any extreme emotion or a sudden shift in my identity or self-awareness. Being a dramatic person myself, I was disappointed so I went to sleep.
I called my hairstylist of three years in the AM to report myself. He almost had a heart attack and summoned me to his abode with utmost immediacy. I requested he shave it all off and even legally bald, I still didn’t feel anything. I had a cute cut with a side fade that became my signature short hair look. I sent my mum a selfie. She said it was photoshop. My dad who at the time never texted (he’s more of an email guy), Whatsapped me “Why did you cut your hair?” I was shooketh. I didn’t realize he cared about my hair like that. Ha ! I feel people experienced more emotional unrest than I did. Besides the breeze on my head, I felt nothing. I did get some resistance from my family at first but they got over it. Now, my mum and sisters are all natural. Osheyy, trendsetter tinz.
I loved sporting short hair. It was stupidly low maintenance, versatile and easy on my pocket. I also loved how it emphasized my facial features. The trouble started when the hair started growing.. and it grew fast. Having negative clues on how to manage the hair, I kept cutting it or resorting to braids. Upon realizing my use of braids as a crotch, I promised myself that I would pause on braids until I figured out how to care well for my growing natural hair and carry it with confidence. I love a challenge and began the journey. The learning curve was steeper than I’d like to admit. My hair was crusty as fuck for the longest time. Fortunately, I was ignorant to this reality. Do you know I never once deep conditioned my hair for the first year I was natural? Yes, it was rough my friend.
I’m lazy and detest spending more than 10 mins fixing my hair (hence my love for braids and buns). Knowing this, I needed a hair care routine that was simple, time efficient and effective. I actively resisted the urge to go on a hair care rampage or experiment with what I consider complex techniques *side eyes bendy rollers*. I needed a sustainable routine. I focused on the basics; moisturize, condition and seal. If you’d like me to share my current hair care routine, let me know. Interestingly, I use equal numbers of products in my current hair routine as I did when I had a relaxer. My hair regimen also drifted to the greener side because these oils (shout out to black castor oil), butters and clay masks made my hair flourish for the gods. I’m still learning to listen to my hair and I’ve noticed it doesn’t respond well when I overload it with products. Hence, I avoid gels, edge controls, curl activators, deactivators, mediators and all the extras. I’m glad my hair and I are both in agreement. Another major change is I haven’t been to the salon in a whole year. That will soon change though because I need and trim and want to do a length check.
Nappily ever after
From my experience, managing natural hair doesn’t have to be tedious or time consuming. While I’m continually refining my hair regimen, I’ve fallen into a routine that leaves my hair happy and me feeling my best. I also found that the more I embraced my hair, the more others did too. Carrying my natural hair has been significantly more low-maintenance than having a relaxer. I don’t feel the strong urge to wear braids because I’m happy with how my hair looks and I can confidently say at this time, I will not be going down the relaxer route again. Not because it’s bad but because my natural hair suits me and my current lifestyle way better than my relaxed hair ever did. I love how my twists frame my face and can’t wait till it grows longer. I’m not surprised since kinky twists were/are hands down my favorite style of braids.
Short story long, I’m enjoying my natural hair at this time and don’t see myself altering it’s texture anytime soon. Will let you know if/when things change.
What’s your relationship with your hair like? Non-chemically processed, locked or relaxed, I’d love to know.
LAJA Tip: It is very possible to have a relaxer without frying your head/scalp. The key is to NOT itch/comb/style/stress your hair/scalp at least 24 hours before the treatment. Protect your hair from fluids. The longer you leave your head dry and unbothered, the easier your relaxer experience will be. Ensure your hair is super filthy because the excess oils/dirt act as a barrier between your scalp and the relaxer. In my experience, it’s not unusual for my stylists to grease my scalp, edges and ears before applying the relaxer… even with the heaps of filth. Both parties play a role in protecting your hair so do your part and voice your concerns when something feels/looks off.